The thoughts, stories and advice of Bill Riddell.

Doing and Doing Well – Writing, Driving & More

December 17th, 2009 Posted in advice, personal, writing

Skill sets and sub-skill sets, racing and driving, paddling and swimming, finger painting and creating a masterpiece. Technically they are all the same thing – but in reality worlds apart.

Lets examine some examples of doing and doing well…

I was a competitive swimmer in what seems another life time, complete with a former Olympic gold medallist as one of my coaches (I had as many as 4 at a time).

It was compulsory for kids to learn to swim when I was at school and as a result slmost all Australians can swim. After following a swan into a pond at the age of three and nearly drowning my parents made learning a priority before I even started school.

After the early rocky relationship with water it was soon a major passion. In summer I could be found swimming in any body of water I could find – pools, ocean, creeks, rivers and even irrigation channels.

Eventually my natural passion turned to competition and training 5-6 days a week and regularly covering 30km’s during the same period.

I was far better than most – able to swim all strokes, dive and tumble turn. Fastest my age at school and the local swimming club were I typically trained. But still I wasn’t the best. Sure I picked up medals, ribbons and trophies in regional competitions, but at state level I was a small fish in a big pond stocked full of bigger and more talented fish.

I trained harder, however my dedication eventually waned in response to my inability to rise to greater succsess.

A team of elite sports medical staff eventually revealed I had bad knees, unsuitable for elite competition and other undesirable flaws. Training was eventually put on hiatus and major illness shortly after killed my thoughts of a comeback.

Though I still feel at home in the water I really only returned to training for rehabilitation purposes a few years later.

The majority of the population can drive a car on the road, many are unable to drive a manual (stick) and only a fraction of those can drive well.

Of that group a small number race cars and a fraction of those again are good at what they do. Only a handful in the world are truly skilled drivers given the opportunity to drive the worlds best machines in elite competition.

I have been driving cars since I could see over the dashboard, first rode a motorbike aged 5 and I’ve been legally driving on the road for 9 years now. I’m a safer driver than many – 18 years experience with motorised vehicles and 10 years racing cars gives me an advantage over most drivers my age with far more limited experience, particularly when it comes to emergency situations.

However I’m limited by natural talent and instincts as well as the finances to pursue most forms of motorsport. Driving safely on the roads, embarrassing my friends at commercial go karting tracks and the occasional club race is about the limit for me.

Likewise a lot of people can write – banging out a quick email, firing off a text message. But far less can write well. A fraction of those write for passion, and the elite few of that groups are talented/best selling authors.

I always knew with a fair degree of certainty where I stood in the previous categories, a stop-watch can quickly measure how fast you are on track or in the pool.

There is no simple test for writers. I can’t see at a glance that I am 12 seconds slower than Chuck Palahniuk or less efficient than Haruki Murakami. It’s simply a gut feeling of mine and the varying opinions and biases of those who read my work.

The only way to get a better understanding is to stop questioning my abilities (or lack of) and instead focus on writing as well and as prolifically as possible – let my success be a measure and enjoy what I do regardless.

Some may call it the tipping point or the dip, but it feels more like I’m staring at up at Everest or preparing to drop from a plane unsure if I packed the parachute.

For those wannabe artists, writers or otherwise creative types looking for a kick in the pants then I highly recommend reading The War of Art by author and screen writer Steven Pressfield.

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